CHASING THE HARVEST
As I ride over the gravel roads of central Michigan in the late summer and fall months I often feel like I am chasing the harvest, or quite possibly being chased by the harvest, not sure. Rolling unpaved roads from bean field to cornfield and back, snapping photos of huge machinery mowing down, sucking up, spitting out, and hauling away the end product of a summer’s worth of planning, planting and maintaining is always fun.
It doesn’t exactly have the wonderment of watching your own backyard garden grow or the smug satisfaction you get from supporting that hippie farm your co-op gets their produce from, but it is a sight to behold, and I admire the hard work that the farmers and their crews put in.
Of course, the flip side to the big agribusiness I witness on the roads north of my home is the Amish farms that populate many of the roads to the south. You won’t see any diesel-fueled combines mowing down crops there, but you will see plenty of hard work, horse pulled wagons filled with corn and other crops, and farm equipment that often appears to be a mashup of old-timey tools and the steampunk chic that your Comic-Con loving niece and her creepy boyfriend are in to. Their work is also admired and respected (the Amish, not your niece and her creepy boyfriend).
I am no stranger to riding rural roads lined with farms, but once I moved to Michigan I started witnessing agriculture on a whole other level and after seven years I still find myself in awe of it as I ride.
I often feel guilty on a Sunday morning when I pass a group of workers with their trucks and combines working in the field. I imagine they’re thinking of me as some sort of nancy boy, picture-taking bike rider who never did a hard days work in his life, and I totally expect to be flashed a middle finger and a big f*ck you from them.
But in reality, I am most often met with a friendly smile, a wave or a nod, especially when I invoke my Golden Rule of Riding Gravel: PULL OFF THE ROAD FOR PASSING FARM EQUIPMENT! They appreciate the gesture, and I appreciate that I have successfully avoided being smashed down like a bug under their giant wheels in a cloud of blinding dust. Everyone wins.
As I write this the fields are becoming more and more barren. The once 10-foot tall rows of green corn and golden soybean fields now look like a post-apocalyptic wasteland colored with various shades of brown and tan. The roads and fields that were bustling with activity all fall are becoming quiet and still, and there is less and less cover from the cold, power sucking headwinds that start in a dumpster behind Grimm’s Truck Stop just outside of Manning, Alberta, Canada and make the 2,000+ mile journey eastward to slow me down. Each ride gets a little crisper, a little colder, and I start to wear more and more layers of clothing.
Soon the roads will be covered with packed snow and ice. The winds will howl, my teeth will chatter, and my fingers will numb. Then, like it does every year, the snows will melt, the ground will dry, the fields will once again come to life, and I will look forward to seeing it as always.